18 Essential Tracks for Your Road Trip Playlist

ILLUSTRATOR Jasrelle Serrano

Songs about running away and going on the road are almost always about love, because the romance of travel is best shared with that special someone. Lonesome travelers on the other hand, may sing of that dreadful longing to go back home, but what they really feel is a desperate ache to return to the person waiting for them. These songs show just that—home is not a place, but a feeling. Here are the songs to keep you company as you drive away from that feeling, and back.

1 | “Odyssey” by HOME

It’s gonna be a long ride. Every odyssey starts best with a deep breath, and a cinematic introduction of strings as musical score, courtesy of HOME.

2 | “Have Love, Will Travel” by The Sonics

What better way to get you pumped up for your trip than a classic proto-punk road-trip tune? Even if you’re not driving as far as “Maine to Mexico,” this reincarnation of the Richard Berry hit is guaranteed to get you off to a good start.

3 | “Let’s Get Out of This Country” by Camera Obscura

Damn right, everybody wants to get out of this country. Camera Obscura said it best.

4 | “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan

Every road trip with friends requires a sing-along track somewhere in the playlist. “Reelin’ in the Years” is one of those songs that are perfect for these moments.

5 | “Oh, the Places We’ll Go” by LAKE

“Oh, the places we’ll go! Oh, we don’t actually know!” Dr. Seuss would have been proud of this charming pop ditty.


6 | “The Golden Age” by Beck

The opening track of Beck’s saddest album ever. Every part of this song—the acoustic rhythm, the slide guitar, the glockenspiel—is heavy with intense sentiment. It really feels like a golden age whenever you’re driving alone, away from the weight of the world’s problems.

7 | “Truckin’” by Grateful Dead

You’re on the road now and there’s no going back. Despite strange encounters and misfortunes on the way, if ever there may be, you just gotta “keep truckin’ on,” says the swashbuckling men of the Grateful Dead.

8 | “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)” by Talking Heads

“It’s the greatest love song ever made,” musician and Talking Heads fan Diego Castillo once declared. Enough said.

9 | “Muddied-up” by Shelleyan Orphan

Caroline Crawley soared above the rest during that New Wave era of ethereal voices. She’s the reason why putting a Shelleyan Orphan song on the stereo is like putting a pillow under your head.

10 | “Lovingly, Leaving Me” by Memory Drawers

Here is a song about happy goodbyes. What might seem like a throwaway track on the Internet by anonymous artist Memory Drawers is actually a gem among many other local indie songs hidden in nameless guises, waiting to be found.

11 | “Taking Off” by Beach Fossils

A life spent on the road can be filled with toxic routine and repetition. Going away from home and back too often can make you feel “numb,” as Beach Fossils sings. “Am I excited or am I just so confused?” Sometimes you just don’t know anymore.

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12 | “Ever Falling in Love” by Times New Viking

“A love song about all the places you’ve never been. Be happy with what you are dealt,” Times New Viking wrote in a note about this particular track under their most recent album, Dancer Equired. The band has been known for their lo-fi sound and semi-cryptic lyrics.

13 | “Depreston” by Courtney Barnett

If Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan had a bastard child (and if it were possible), it would be Courtney Barnett. On this song, she fills us in on the miserable life in the suburbs of Preston, Melbourne.

14 | “Leaving Home” by Big Scary

A heart-wrenching tune and the sound of a path being paved to a sad ending. “Leaving Home” for the most part is filled with trembling restraint and an impending doom. The crash comes in, and the song breaks into pieces.

15 | “My Little Corner of the World” by Yo La Tengo

It’s a lover’s tempting offer to run away in the middle of the night. And if you can’t come, he or she will stay with you nonetheless, and sing you to sleep with this lullaby instead.

16 | “Fish Song” by Arigato, Hato!

“I want to travel by your side to see the sea and ride the tide.” Arigato, Hato!’s single is a sweet electronic birdsong (or fishsong, if you will) as well as a lovely lesson in modest rhymes.

17 | “Lost with You” by Eggboy

It’s good to get lost once in a while. It’s a chance to spend more time with the person sitting shotgun beside you. This song by Diego Mapa’s unsung project Eggboy proves that when your maps go missing, it’s gonna be okay.


18 | “Balikbayan Box” by Eraserheads

What’s inside your balikbayan box? Is it full of stickers, posters, clothes, or toys? It doesn’t matter, because the greatest gift you can send back home is yourself. Welcome home, wherever you are now.

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Alyana Cabral
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